Album Review: Premieres by Hilary Field

I have been fortunate yet again, dear readers, to have the enormous pleasure of listening to and reviewing for you a fantastic recording, this time by award-winning guitarist/composer Hilary Field.

This recording features world premiere music by contemporary composers that celebrates the natural lyrical, rhythmic and harmonic beauty of the classical guitar. It features contemporary pieces, some of which have been dedicated to Hilary, from Richard Charlton, Douglas Lora, Jorge Morel, Alberto Cumplido, Victor Kioulaphides, Nadia Borislova, Gerard Droza, Rick Sowash and Field herself.

In the recording’s creation, Hilary worked closely with each of the respective composers to expand the guitar literature  – a huge plus point for me and something I think that more classical guitarists should be venturing to do. So first “well done” on that Hilary, as far as I’m concerned!

And for those of you not familiar with Hilary, she’s a Seattle, Washington based guitarist and composer and has garnered praise for her dynamic virtuosity, her sensitive musicianship, and for the emotional depth she brings to the heart of classical guitar music. Hilary is a past winner of the Northwest Young Artist Series Competition and was the first guitarist to win the Francis Walton Soloist Competition. She has held faculty positions as the head of the Guitar department at Seattle Pacific University and Pacific Lutheran University. She has released several award winning CDs, including her debut recording, “Music of Spain and Latin America,” which was an award winner for Classical Album of the Year by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors. Hilary was recently sponsored by the US Embassy to perform and tour in South America, and has been a featured performer in international guitar festivals such as Festival Entrecuerdas in Chile, Festival Internacional de Guitarra ICPNA in Perú, and Série Grands Concerts in Québec.

On first listening, aside from I’m struck by the quality of the playing, depth of musicality and great selection of newer pieces.

The Giga from Jorge Morel’s Suite for Olga could well be my favourite from the 19 individual tracks on the album – sprightly, fun and stunningly played. Controlled abandonment, if that makes sense?! I could hear that in lesser hands this could get out of control! Clear and precise lines, yet with a tangible sense of enjoyment in the playing and unwaveringly beautiful tone throughout. A really lovely closing piece to this great three piece suite from Jorge Morel.

Richard Charlton’s Lauro-inspired Vals by Moonlight from the Suite Latina  and Douglas Lora’s Northeastern Lullaby are also worth a mention, with the former creating somewhat of an earworm for me. I want to play it for myself now – there’s a real inspirational quality to Hilary’s playing that I’ve not experienced for a while with a recording.

And I can’t overlook the opportunity of course to mention Hilary’s own piece Donzella: Fantasia on a Sephardic Lullaby. A heavenly melancholy delight. And you can take a listen (and watch) for yourself right here…..

 

Donzella: Fantasia on a Sephardic Lullaby

Overall Premieres is a high quality recording – superb playing with beautiful depth of tone, excellent production and a great collection of contemporary classical guitar pieces (something we definitely need more of out there). A highly recommended recording, and quite possibly one of my favourites for the year. Very well done indeed.

Premieres is available now on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and all good record stores. Do yourself a favour and buy your copy now!

And if you want to catch Hilary in person she’s currently scheduling a number of release concerts and will be featured in a number of upcoming international guitar festivals – check out her website for more details: www.hilaryfield.com

Album Review: Guitar Recital by Kazu Suwa

I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to over the last few weeks to the latest recording by London-based Japanese guitarist Kazu Suwa. Incidentally, Kazu’s website is one of the websites I feature on my “Links To Other Stuff” page: http://www.kazu-classicalguitar.co.uk/releases.html

And it’s a cracking recording of 22 delightfully played pieces including classics of the repertoire alongside some fantastic guitar arrangements of Catalan composer’s Frederic Mompou’s piano works, one transcribed by Kazu himself. More on those in a bit.

The classics on the recording including much-loved favourites such as Adelita, Lagrima and Capricho Arabe amongst six pieces by Francisco Tarrega. The latter two are particular favourites of mine on the recording I have to say. As well-loved as they are there can be a tendency for these pieces to be over-played and over-recorded. However I do feel that Kazu’s interpretation is really quite fresh particularly on the Capricho Arabe – a deft, delicate yet virtuosic touch with a lovely lilting musicality, really bringing out the essence of that Romantic style without overdoing it and being overly schmaltzy. Spot on.

The Tarrega pieces are followed by three Abel Fleury pieces – again played with a beautiful touch. The little Estilo Pampeano is my favourite of the three for sure – gorgeous, and proving he’s equally at home with the Latin side of the repertoire as he is with the Romantic stuff. And this is reinforced by the equally beautiful Choro de Saudade by Augustin Barrios Mangore.

The album also features other pieces by Barrios, So, Garoto, Hector Ayala, Villa-Lobos and Reis (of which Eterna Saudade (Valsa) is definitely worthy of a mention – rich lush tone, aching melody played with a clear sense of longing. You can just feel the heartbreak coming through your headphones!

The standout favourites for me on the recording, in amongst all this beautiful playing, are Kazu’s interpretations of two Frederic Mompou pieces – Canço i Dansa No. XI (arranged by Kazu) and Canço i Dansa No. VI: Canço (arranged by Alirio Diaz). Both arrangements, and of course the playing, are just divine.

My favourite of the two is the Canço i Dansa No. XI (arranged by Kazu) and it sounds like it really is naturally at home on the guitar, rather than piano. A triumph of arrangement no less! And it’s a fantastic piece, beautifully played, with this perfectly balanced sense of musical aching that Kazu seems to be master of in the first section of the piece. It then moves into a section of the piece with a sunnier disposition, with that Kazu plays with equal style and musical direction.

And there are couple of chords, one around the 1:44 mark, one around the 2:44 and 3:34 mark in the recording, that are just so rich and juicy I want to eat them!

Overall this is a fantastic recording that deserves to be heard by as many guitar aficionados as possible, and much wider. Some sensitive, tasteful and well-informed playing of well-known favourites, wonderful arrangements and interpretations of lesser known works, paired up with just downright gorgeous playing.

This is a truly beautiful recording.

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Info on where to get your copy of the recording, and listen to some snippets, can be found here: http://www.kazu-classicalguitar.co.uk/releases.html